Climate change consequences: the weird and the worrying
Hotter summers, melting icecaps and more extreme weather are the symptoms of climate change that we are used to hearing about. However, there are a whole range of weird impacts that are likely to result from climate change. The following lists some of these, a lot of which will affect our everyday lives and some that are just pretty interesting.
1. Less of the things we love to eat and drink
Okay, so starting off with one that everyone can relate to: the decrease in chocolate, coffee, alcohol and bacon (amongst many others). This is fairly simple; climate change is going to affect the crops we grow to either eat, or feed to the animals that we eat.
For example, Cocoa is particularly picky about where it grows, needing to be within 20 degrees of the equator, receive 800 inches of rain annually and a dry season of no longer than three months. This may seem terrible for us chocoholics, but also spare a thought for the farmers in West Africa who heavily rely on cocoa as a cash crop.
2. Say goodbye to fast internet
Very close to home, the UK Government has listed this in their report warning about threats to UK infrastructure from climate change. Basically higher temperatures can reduce the range of Wi-Fi and rainstorms can affect reliability. You don’t have to be a genius to work out what this means when two of the biggest effects in the UK from climate change will be higher temperatures and rainfall.
3. Say hello to kidney stones
This is probably not something many people think about on a daily basis, but yes beware the climate change kidney stones! A research team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has found a link between the number of hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several US cities with varying climates.
The authors of the study which took place between 2005 and 2011 believe the increase in kidney stones was due to increased dehydration. This causes a buildup in the concentration of calcium and other minerals in the urine which promotes the growth of the stones. So remember, make sure you get enough water when those hot days come along. Well, unless we’ve run out of fresh water that is.
4. And more potent heroin
Research has found that increasing amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere are causing more alkaloids in plants to be created. And you’ve guessed it; morphine is an alkaloid. Obviously having more morphine may not be a bad thing when used in the right way, but it is also the key ingredient of heroin.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory has found that the current crop of poppies is twice as potent as those grown at Carbon Dioxide levels from the 1950s. With current projections, future increases in Carbon Dioxide will increase morphine levels three-fold by 2050.
5. Good news for girls
A recent study by researchers in Japan has found evidence that there may be a tipping in the balance of genders as a result of climate change. The researchers used records of births and miscarriages from 1968 to 2012, finding girls were increasing and more male fetuses were dying along with temperature differences.
Whilst this is just one study, research on other animals does help back up this assertion. For example, rain leads to more male chimpanzees, warmer temperature lead to loggerhead turtles laying more eggs that turn out to be female and we know that many reptiles depend on temperature to determine the sex of incubating eggs.
6. Talking of sex: Pizzly Bears
The story of the pizzly (or grolar) bear started in 2006 when a hunter shot a bear dead in Canada’s Northwestern territories and noticed that it looked like both a polar and a grizzly bear. But it wasn’t until 2010, when a similar bear was killed less than 200 miles away, that DNA testing confirmed it was in fact a mix of the two bears.
It is thought that the disappearance of the artic ice cap has removed a barrier that formerly did not allow the bears to come in contact. And its not just bears that are creating new hybrid species. Other artic animals, such as seal mixes and beluga and Narwhal whales, are also getting it on.
The downside of all this inter-species copulation is that they are actually forcing themselves into extinction as the genes allowing animals to survive in the far north are lost.
These are just a few of the more specific impacts of climate change and we will surely learn of more as time goes on. But for now, if you like an evening enjoying a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate, can’t live without your high speed internet and rely on that bacon sandwich as a hangover cure, then remember not to take them for granted as they might not be around for much longer.
Images: USAID, Flickr, Alistair Rae